The Quiet is a slow-burn thriller that keeps the audience hooked on the movie thanks to a disturbing plot and solid performances from its cast. While the film wasn’t what I expected, it was impossible to dismiss and kept me wondering just where it was headed from start to finish.
The Quiet was directed by Jamie Babbit (who brought us 1999’s But I’m a Cheerleader) and was written by Abdi Nazemian and Micah Schraft (both writers also served as associate producers for the film). It stars Elisha Cuthbert (“24,” House of Wax), Camilla Belle (When A Stranger Calls), Edie Falco (“The Sopranos,” Freedomland), Martin Donovan (Insomnia), and Shawn Ashmore (X-Men: The Last Stand).
The film basically follows two high school girls – Nina Deer (Cuthbert) and Dot (Belle). Nina is the high school cheerleader and one of the most popular girls in school. She also seems to be the school snob especially when it comes to Dot – the deaf/mute girl who has moved in with Nina and her parents, Paul (Donovan) and Olivia (Falco), following the death of Dot’s father and mother.
Nina pretty much hates Dot (mostly because she is deaf, mute, and an annoyance to her “perfect” world). She also seems to hate her mother, hate her father, hate her body, and pretty much hate life in general. This seems rather odd because on the surface Nina has the perfect teenage life. She is a cheerleader; she can have any guy in school she wants; and her parents pretty much give into her every whim.
However, the audience slowly discovers (along with Dot) that Nina’s life isn’t so perfect, and that she is hiding a very dark and disturbing secret. This secret revolves around a father/daughter incestuous affair that is destroying Nina’s life.
On the surface, Dot also seems to have a somewhat decent life (despite being deaf and mute). She is adjusting to the lost of her father (her mother died when she was younger), and her new life at the Deer house. She also has to deal with the constant need for everyone to tell Dot their secrets – including her quasi boyfriend (Ashmore) and his sexual fantasies about her. Since Dot is deaf and mute, people feel that they can tell her anything no matter how personal. When Dot discovers the truth about Nina and her father, her world is thrown upside down, and the film slowly starts to drift to a much darker place.
Nina soon learns that Dot has a few secrets of her own when she begins to believe that Dot might not be deaf or mute. This leads Nina to begin to torment Dot with little whispers about how she plans to kill her father during sex, or how she intends to shoot him. She teases that Dot would be an accomplice to the murder except for the fact she can’t hear or talk – which further pushes Dot to reveal her true secret.
At first, Nina’s torment of Dot seems like just more of the same cruel behavior from a spoiled teen. As the father/daughter relationship is revealed more, it becomes clear Nina is just a victim. Yes, she is tormenting Dot, but she is also calling for help. The tension slowly builds throughout the film leading us to the moment when Dot finally has to make a decision to break her silence or allow the abuse to continue.
The Quiet was not what I was expecting from the film’s trailers, and was at extremely disturbing to watch. The film puts the incest scenes right in your face and they will make you want to cringe. At the same time, these scenes help turn Nina from a spoiled brat to a victim.
Cuthbert does an excellent job in the film, and presents a character that is both the torturer and the victim. Her scenes where she whispers her plans in Dot’s ear drip with pure evil, but are followed up with scenes where she is clearly a victim of her father’s abuse.
Belle (who I didn’t like in the remake of When A Stranger Calls) is also extremely good in the film. She brings a range of emotions to the character of Dot, and delivers them through facial expressions and body language for most of the film. When the film reaches its climax towards the end, her actions are even more powerful because she has been so silent and reserved for the most of the story.
Falco is also good in the movie, but at times her character seems like more of an after thought than having any real purpose. She is depressed (she spends most of the film drunk and popping pills), but it is never clearly said what drove her to the depression (although you assume it was the relationship between Nina and her father).
The film does have some problems (mostly in slow pacing issues), but is worth taking the time to watch. The plot tends to drag at various points of the movie (such as the relationship between Dot and Ashmore’s character), and some of the side characters (such as Nina’s friend) are not really developed too much and come across as cliché. Still, none of the film’s problems ruin the overall movie’s enjoyment or the slow building suspense of the plot.
The DVD comes some with special features that take you into the movie and follow its journey from concept to film. There are five featurettes that were shot during the making of the film. The featurettes are the basic “making of” documentaries and explore how The Quiet was filmed (such as the fetal pig dissecting scene); the location shooting in Austin, Texas (much of the film was shot in an actual house rather than a studio); and the development of the script. There is also a featurette on the film’s cast which has interviews about how they were picked for the movie, and how they approached their roles.
The Quiet is a very disturbing movie to sit through with a plot that doesn’t flinch away from its overly sexual nature. At the same time, the performances make the movie impossible to simply dismiss, and will keep you watching just to see where the film goes next. I would recommend The Quiet to anyone who enjoys a thriller that likes to take its time slowly building suspense through the performances of its cast.